Orbiting Jupiter, a review

Stars in the sky
Photo by Morgan Maciaon Unsplash

This page-turner bridges middle-grade and young adult. In his short novel published in 2017, Newberry award-winning author professor at Calvin Collge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Gary D. Schmidt, has created two compelling young protagonists—fourteen-year-old Joseph Brook and twelve-year-old Jack Hurd. I say Orbiting Jupiter bridges these two audiences, not because of the spread in the boys’ ages, but because of the complexities and mature content that would easily appeal to high school and also adult readers, despite the young ages of the main characters. This is a story of acceptance, family values, perseverance, and second chances.  

Joseph Brook is an eighth-grader who by the age of thirteen has already fathered a child. He moves in with the Hurd family when they benevolently agree to take on Joseph as a foster child with all the ramifications of this youngster’s past. That means their only-child Jack will finally have a companion and have someone with whom to share the chores around their Maine farm. Jack is only a sixth-grader and Joseph is not exactly ready to slip into the role of a brother because he comes with a lot of baggage that needs careful unpacking. He is consumed by his passion for reuniting with his precious daughter Jupiter whom he is forbidden to see. 

The Hurd family takes Joseph under its wing and Jack goes out on a limb risking ridicule by his friends, some of whom target Joseph, bully him and start a fight. He also refuses to heed the warnings from some of the adults at school who caution him to steer clear of this troubled youth.  Joseph is not totally ostracized, Coach Swieteck and the English teacher have faith in his abilities and support Joseph in catching up academically. 

It’s no wonder this book stays at the top of Amazon’s charts. Readers of all ages will fall in love with this book and root the boys on as they figure out how to adjust to one another and navigate the perimeters of what is expected of them and what is the right thing to do. I don’t want to spoil it all for you, but the story does take a dark turn toward violence when we least expect it, but never in a gratuitous manner. 

Readers will find that Schmidt is an accomplished writer who not only brings compassion to the difficulties these two boys grapple but also draws the parents as full charters unto themselves who are equally challenged by the events that impact their decisions.  Animal lovers will thoroughly enjoy how tending to the farm animals and milking the cows is a vehicle for tapping into Joseph’s true self and acts as a vehicle for tempering his troubled soul.  

Jeremiah’s Best Trick

Jeremiah was a natural. His mother said it was in his genes because his great-grandfather William “Mush” Rawls had been a famous vaudeville actor with Buster Keaton in the early 1900s. But Great-grandfather Mush was not so famous that any of Jeremiah’s classmates had ever heard of him. No, Jeremiah had to make a name for himself on his own.

Take a Short Fiction Break and read “Jeremiah’s Best Trick,” my latest short story for middle-grade readers. It’s published on Short Fiction Break, a website that features hundreds of short stories (mostly adult fiction) from all over the world.

If you are really into it, you can vote for my story in the People’s Choice Awards for the Summer Writing Contest, which entails reading at least three stories. If you’re up for it, check it out: Readers’ Choice Awards Guidelines.

  1. Read at least three or four of the stories. (There are a lot to choose from.)
  2. Vote for your favorite by choosing its title from the dropdown list in the poll.
  3. Share your favorite on social media and invite your friends to vote, too.
  4. Comment on the story to let the author know you enjoyed it.

Happy reading!

Crossroads (A YA Thriller)

woman in state of fear
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Here’s your first sneak peek at a thriller short story I’m working on that features an 18-year-old recent high school graduate who gets into some serious trouble while working at a sleep-away summer camp . . .

Crystal drove around the Pine Barrens in Charlie’s red Jeep Cherokee for hours, in a blind panic. Tell someone what happened to Charlie, or stick to the plan? She drove around in the dark, lost. Time was running out. She had to make a decision or it would be daybreak.

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Self-Publishing in 8-Weeks

woman writing by hand "the unknown"

The journey to self-publishing and launching my first short story has been an interesting one, to say the least. Eight weeks ago, I started taking an online class called Write to Publish with the good folks at The Write Practice. We started out in early April by making our websites, so we would have a platform to share our writings and find subscribers.

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Mixing Art and Sales to Concoct the Magic Elixir

Have you ever wanted to learn the ways of the infamous snake-oil salesmen of the medicine shows of yore? That’s what it feels like to knock on doors (via email) and stand in the town square (FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram) to perform my enthusiastic pitch to get people’s attention in order to sell them something they didn’t even know they wanted. Ah, the underbelly of being an artist. Sales!

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